Are you wondering whether you would be eligible to receive, or perhaps, be required to pay post-separation support and/or alimony in the event you and your spouse separate?  

Under North Carolina law, spousal support is available to spouses who are economically dependent. Our general statutes define “dependent spouse” as “a spouse, whether husband or wife, who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse.” 

Spousal support can be ordered by a court temporarily and is referred to as post separation support, or on a more permanent basis, which is referred to as alimony.  

There are no recommended guidelines for Courts to follow when it comes to arriving at a figure for post-separation support or alimony awards in North Carolina.  

For post separation support, a dependent spouse is entitled to an award based on factors such as the financial needs of the parties, the parties’ accustomed standard of living, the present employment income and other recurring earnings of each party from any source, their income-earning abilities, the separate and marital debt service obligations, those expenses reasonably necessary to support each of the parties, and each party’s respective legal obligations to support any other persons.

Short of marital misconduct as discussed below, a dependent spouse is entitled to an award of post separation support if, based on the factors listed, the court finds that the resources of the dependent spouse are not adequate to meet his or her reasonable needs and the supporting spouse has the ability to pay.

For permanent alimony, our courts will look at the spouses’ entire marital picture and may consider the following: 

  • How much each spouse earns or may potentially earn
  • The age and overall health of each spouse
  • All sources of income, including retirement benefits and investments
  • How long the parties were married
  • How much one spouse contributed to the others professional education (i.e., a wife working to pay her husband’s way through law school)
  • The financial impact on the spouse who assumes custody of any minor children
  • The standard of living created during the marriage
  • The difference in the spouses’ education, and how long it may take the spouse requesting alimony to receive sufficient training to find employment
  • The difference in the spouses’ assets and debts, including other legal support obligations
  • Marital misconduct by either spouse, including corroborating evidence of misconduct after the parties separated
  • What property each spouse brought to the marriage
  • The household contributions of a stay-at-home spouse
  • The relative needs of either spouse

There are other considerations, however, that may negate a dependent spouse’s right to receive an award of post separation support or alimony.  Under North Carolina law, a court will not award alimony if it finds that the dependent spouse was involved in “illicit sexual behavior” during the marriage or on the date of separation – regardless of current financial needs. 

One of the most important things a person can do when speaking to a domestic attorney is be forthcoming  about all aspects of your case so that your attorney can properly prepare or defend a claim for post separation support and alimony.

Published on July 7, 2016